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Snow Falling on Cedars (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard

Howard's Sublime Surprise
Review by Christopher Coleman


Snow Falling on Cedars (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard

Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars (Soundtrack) by James Newton Howard




Originality 9
Music Selection 8
Composition 8
CD Length 9
Track Order 8
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10


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Track 6 - Driftwood Hideaway



James Newton Howard


Quick Quotes

"With SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, James Newton Howard should aquire some additional notoriety amongst film score fans. While the lack of heat generated by the film may mean few will ever see it, those curious about the score should watch the movie first to judge the score and how well it works within the film. The score on disc however works just as well - effectively portraying the themes of undying love, commitment and forgiveness." *****

Ryan Keaveney- Cinemusic Reviews Snow Falling on Cedars


Conducted and Produced by James Newton Howard
Orchestrations by Geoffrey Alexander and Jeff Atmajian
Released by Decca Records December 1999

Snow Falling on Cedars is one of those scores that can catch one completely off guard.  It is one of those welcome surprises that happen far too seldom in the world of film music. Even with some sixty-plus scores under his belt and a rather large fan-base, James Newton Howard, has previously never really captured my ear.  I have found his scores have always been adequate but just not as enthralling as I  might like.  This held true until Snow Falling on Cedars.

James Newton Howard's score for Snow Falling on Cedars is significant in that it appears to mark yet another stride forward in his maturation as a film score composer.  It is not difficult at all to hear why.  Snow Falling on Cedars is a truly captivating work from Howard- standing out from among the bulk of film music in 1999.  It mixes some of the darker, subtler sonic schemes Howard has become known for with some of absolutely stunning vocals and the  inclusion of the Japanese flute, the shakuhachi.  I was really unprepared for what this score had to offer.

The tone is set right from the beginning with track 1, Lost in the Fog.  It is dark, ominous, even intimidating.  Howard sculpts a mysterious sonic shroud which takes its time in building up suspense and anticipation.  The opening track parallels and equals the beauty of director of photography, John Toll's, incredible opening shot.   

Track 2, Carl's fishing net features some of the best music on the disc.  The use of strings is deep and poignant.  Just over a minute into this track, there is a percussive burst that reoccur from time to time throughout the CD.   From this point the track begins an overwhelming ascent as voice and instrument converge at the apex.  This wonderful piece concludes with a sudden drop off of all music save bells which clang subtly in the background.   

Howard is able to combine Western and Eastern elements quite effectively for this score.  It is predominantly Western in its construction but Howard's employment of the shakuhachi, taiko drums and other Japanese percussion instruments bring a dark and mysterious quality to the score.  

Maybe the most beautiful and downright romantic tracks is  track 26, Can I Hold You Now. While it is romantic and soft, it remains consistent with element of sadness and tragedy incorporated into the entire score.  This track, coming near the end of the CD, leaves the listener with a positive experience and a desire to return to this music again and again.

In a year, that the vocal element of film scores has made a strong resurgence through Duel of the Fates, The Mummy, the 13th Warrior, and The Messenger, Snow Falling on Cedars adds considerably to 1999’s choral catalogue.  These vocals are so scary, they are beautiful and so beautiful, they’re scary-  a serious treat for those who enjoy such scores.

It would be easy to vividly describe every track on this CD.  James Newton Howard's work is that good.  Suffice it to say, that he brings each piece to life with its own personality.  This fact makes this CD release by Decca very easy to listen to all the way through.  Granted, the right mood is a prerequisite.  This music may not cheer one up, but it certainly amazes and inspires.  With over an hour of crisply-recorded score, Decca has done this release of Snow Falls on Cedars justice and represents one of the film-score mountain-tops of 1999.


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track Title Time


1 Lost in the Fog 2:59  ****
2 Carl's Fishing Net 2:52  *****
3 Moran Finds the Boat 1:12  ****
4 Hatsue and Ishmael Kiss 1:42  *****
5 Kendo 0:51  ***
6 Driftwood Hideaway 1:49  ****
7 The Strawberry Field 3:54  ****
8 The Worst Kind of News 1:07   ***
9 Seven Acres 1:53  ***
10 The German Soldier 3:13  ***
11 Snowstorm 1:53  *****
12 Coast Guard Report 1:12  ***
13 Typeset 1:39  ***
14 The Evacuation 6:34  ****
15 Courtroom Montage 1:34  ***
16 Susan Marie Remembers 1:36  ****
17 The Defense 1:46  ***
18 Snow Drive 1:29  *****
19 Typing 1:41  ****
20 Tarawa 4:09  *****
21 The Battery 0:46  ***
22 Carl and  Kazuo Negotiate 1:44  ****
23 Humanity Goes on Trial 4:47  ****
24 New Evidence 1:23  ****
25 Snow Angels 2:30  ****
26 Can I Hold You Now? 4:47  *****
27 End Titles 6:14  *****

Total Running Time


Referenced Reviews
The 13th WarriorThe Phantom Menace The Messenger 




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